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18 April, 2022

Dynasty of sailing dominance

FOR the past decade, the Wadley family has built an undisputed sailing legacy on the waters of Lake Tinaroo and further afield including Italy, America and Spain with countless state, national and world titles populating their trophy case.

By Rhys Thomas

The Wadley family Travis, Roger, Annette, Breanne have been the sole victors of sailing on Australia’s eastern coast for the past 14 years. PHOTO BY RHYS THOMAS.

The current Wadley generation is not the first to break waves in the family with father, Roger, and grandparents Bob and Bonny, having a deep history steeped in sailing. 

Bob and Bonny were awarded life membership of the Tinaroo Sailing Club in 1982, with Roger and Annette continuing that legacy to date. 

Roger has been commodore for the past four years and in previous years, Annette worked in the role of treasurer and secretary. 

Roger was born in Saint George outside of Brisbane but relocated to the Tablelands six weeks later, spending a majority of his life growing up and sailing on Lake Tinaroo, now coaching his kids and others on its waters. 

Roger met the love of his life, Annette during a school trip to Canberra from Cardwell in 1988 by complete coincidence and together, where they settled down on the Tablelands, opened a business and continued the Wadley sailing legacy. 

“I met Annette on a grade 12 trip to the Snowy Mountains, she was grade 11 and I was grade 12,” Roger said. 

“By the time the grade 12 bus came through it was full, so I had to go on the grade 11 bus – I was frustrated at the time cause all my mates were on the grade 12 bus. 

“But I got to meet Annette and we spent the trip together and have been together ever since.” 

Roger managed to climb through the ranks sailing sabots, eventually coming third in a national event – the highest his career on the water would take him. 

His kids have since eclipsed that success as Kristen, Travis and Breanne have brought upon a 14-year dynasty of dominance on Australia’s eastern coast. 

Each of the three Wadley siblings has at least one state, national and international sailing title under their belt, stretching from the O’pen Skiff class up to the Laser classes. 

Over the past 14 years, the Wadley family has attended eight world championships across the globe and taken home eight world titles between the three siblings. 

Kristen, the oldest, is currently 20 years old and has been sailing since she was seven, Travis is in his last year of high school at 17 and started sailing when he was six. 

The youngest Breanne, now 15, was out on the water watching her older siblings when she was just two years old and at the age of four, she was sailing on her own. 

“For the last 14 years, the three kids have dominated the O'pen Skiff Class and more recently in the Laser class,” Roger said. 

“Breanne had a guard of honour when she came out of the water for the last time after the winning the National O'pen Skiff Title, which was her last regatta in the class, before moving onto the Laser. 

“A lot of it comes from my persistence in coaching but they love sailing. Sometimes I don’t really feel like going out on the water but they want to do it, so I’ll come out.” 

It is no longer a competition between who will get first or second after a sailing title, it is a competition to see which Wadley will take first. 

Despite his quiet and reserved temperament on shore, Travis’s competitive drive and instinct is unmatched on the water. 

This competitiveness is further enhanced when racing against his own blood as sibling rivalry between the Wadleys pushes each of them to further heights. 

Travis’s France world title victory in 2015 counts amongst his most memorable, with all the blood, sweat and tears shed on the journey finally paying off. 

“It was my first win in the worlds,” he said. Since his first victory Travis has made numerous appearances at world titles, constantly growing his skills and accolades. 

Some of Breanne’s earliest memories are her sitting on the coaching boat out on Lake Tinaroo with her father, watching her older siblings hone their skills. 

“I grew up watching my siblings sail, I watched Kristen and Travis sail, I can remember sitting on the coach boat with my dad just watching and going ‘I want to do that one day’,” she said. 

“It’s all I really knew so I picked it up very naturally.” 

Breanne’s first sailing experience came out of critiquing Kristen’s tacking techniques during practice, sparking Roger to suggest to Breanne to “jump in the boat”. 

“Kristen jumped out, Breanne jumped in, she sailed across, tacked around and sailed as if she had been sailing for six months,” Roger said. 

“Two weeks later she had a boat.” 

Kristen is the eldest of the Wadley siblings and ended up starting later than both her younger brother and sister, however this did not mean she was any less talented. 

Like Travis and Breanne, Kristen’s fondest memory was her winning the 2013 world title in Italy when she was 13 where after crossing the finish line and taking home multiple firsts, Roger abandoned ship to celebrate with his daughter. 

“Dad jumped out of the RIB boat, swam over to my boat and jumped on it with me and there were boats all around us, that was a very special moment,” Kristen said. 

Now living in Brisbane, Kristen is attending the University of Queensland in her fourth year of study to become a P.E teacher. 

Living in the big smoke has meant sailing has been put on the back burner for a while but due to her fame in the sailing world, Kristen now does one-on- one coaching sessions with sailors. 

“To keep my face in the sailing community I’ve started doing a lot more coaching, showing my face around the club and doing that other side of sailing,” she said. 

“I’m more than happy to jump in the boat and go training but it’s not to that same competitive extent as before.” 

Despite their talents and achievements in the sailing world, Roger has insisted that each of his children first go to university and obtain a degree so they “will always have something to fall back on”. 

Currently all three of his children are of the same mind and pursing tertiary education or taking steps to get enrolled in university.

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